Third of four. Someone else wrote more of this one than me, but I agree with it.
PEOPLE AND ENERGY – HOW DO WE MANAGE SUPPLY?
In New Zealand we are increasingly reliant on imported oil, which now makes up half of our total energy consumed. Most of this is used for transport but the proportion of electricity produced from fossil fuel, rather than renewable energy sources, doubled from 1995 to 2003 (from approx 15% to 30%). Industrial electricity use is increasing about three times faster than domestic use (which is due mainly to population growth). So, we are definitely experiencing increased demand in electricity, and our supply shortfall is being made up by oil imports. The Maui gas field was a great NZ discovery that produced electricity reliably for the past 25 years, but if we are to maintain the relatively clean, gas-fired power stations then Maui’s depletion means more exploration is needed. It has been suggested that we import liquid natural gas but we don’t know the future cost of imported oil or gas; we only know that it can be very variable. It will never be as secure as a domestic source, so it seems prudent to reduce our reliance on imports to fire up our extra electricity demand.
The alternative ways to generate power include more wind power and more hydroelectric power. While hydroelectric generating capacity may be limited by available river valley systems, wind power in NZ is virtually unlimited. Currently, wind produces 0.5% of our energy. It could economically produce 23% of our electricity by 2015, according to a report by Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. Those who say wind is unreliable should check the facts: power output is variable but predictable, both in the short term and seasonally. Hydroelectricity is unpredictable (seasonally) but controllable, so the two work in a wonderful harmony, with hydro being quickly available to compensate for low or excessive winds when wind farms shuts off. Our electricity supply needs to be more secure with fewer greenhouse gas emissions and wind power fulfils both of these needs.
To summarise, its looking like we’ll need lots more. And wind can do it, along with the hydro we already have. Next week, peak oil and why it might not exist at all.